The NASUWT teaching union has launched a campaign for long Covid to be legally recognised as a disability under the Equality Act of 2010.
The union says more than 1 million people in the UK are now living with long Covid, with teachers and education support staff the second most likely profession to be affected, only just behind healthcare workers.
NASUWT general secretary Dr Patrick Roach said: “Teachers have stepped up to the front line of this pandemic and have put their health at risk to educate our children and young people. It is deeply alarming that the ONS [Office for National Statistics] has since identified a high incidence of long Covid within the profession.
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“With the serious risk of emerging variants, more teachers could still be vulnerable to developing this condition and find themselves unable to work, at threat of financial hardship and without sufficient legal protections.”
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The debilitating condition includes lasting organ damage, impairment of mental processing, and extreme fatigue and shortness of breath, leading to exhaustion after even minor activity.
Launching the campaign at the NASUWT’s Disabled Teachers’ Consultation Conference, the union has also called for reasonable adjustments, flexible working and financial compensation for teachers left unable to teach as a result of contracting Covid at work.
Such compensation already exists for healthcare workers whose careers have been prematurely ended by long Covid.
Dr Roach added: “No teacher experiencing long Covid should be forced to live in this fear.
“The government needs to consider regulations that ensure access to ill-health retirement provision for those with long Covid.
“Ministers must, as a matter of urgency, provide financial compensation for all teachers, including supply teachers, where their careers have been impacted due to Covid-19.
“The NASUWT recognises the life-changing severity of long Covid and it is time the legislation did, too.”